Monday, January 31, 2011

On Ravioli and Emergency Preparedness

Sitting here, eating local, seasonal corn and carrots which I froze this summer, a frozen fruit smoothie, and delicious local ravioli from Mama Mucci's in Canton. I'm thinking about the epic snow storm that will be soon descending upon Southeast Michigan. Thinking about emergency preparation (oh shit, we have no bottled water or spare battieries...) is encouraging my mind to drift to something a little more fun, which is my planting plan for this year. Emergency planning and Plant planning are essentially, in my mind, the same thing. One might be for a more immediate disaster, but planning ahead for the season and ensuring that my family has vegetables that are high in nutrients, readily available, that didn't take a 1,500 mile trip to get to our door is pretty important to me. Now is the time where I am dreaming and getting carried away by what I might plant, but also doing a lot of realistic thinking;

What kind of vegetables will Sam actually eat? What can be easily used in homemade dishes, or easily frozen? What will store well into the winter?

As I've mentioned before, as I garden more and more, I'm discovering that what really appeals to me about growing vegetables (besides the amazing taste of a freshly-picked tomato, or an onion pulled straight from the ground) is that sort of "survival mentality". I like knowing that if my car broke down, or if there was some kind of bad weather, I could survive on what I can grow in my own backyard/frontyard/whatever other place in the yard my partner lets me take over.

Now in my second year of urban homsteading, the questions becomes one of realism. Because of the climate I live in, the size of the lot I have, etc. it's not realistic for me to grow all of the food that my family will eat. Also, there are some food exceptions in this household- there's a lot of Velveeta Mac n' Cheese being eaten by a certain teen, but I haven't had much success growing that yet. :) Knowing that we will never be a family that lives completely off the grid, how can we inch ourselves more toward the edge of it?

Part of any good planning process is taking in input from others. Although I am definitely the sower, tender, harvester, planter and cook/baker in this family, there are two other eaters! Today I sat down with Sam and asked her what she'd like us to grow, and we talked it out and came up with a list- potatoes, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, and cucumbers. I will grow a lot of these things, because Sam will eat them and I want to make sure she gets a lot of veggies! Mike is a veritable garbage-disposal when it comes to food, especially veggies. The conversation with him is more about how much space I can use to grow, rather than what to grow in it. He's not yet ready for the whole lawn to be taken up by a potato patch- I stress the word yet.

It's difficult to assess how much I need to grow- how many potatoes does someone eat on average per year? Even if I can find how many potatoes an average American eats per year, I bet you $20 that half of those potatoes are french fried! Here's my best assessment for our family for the coming year:

Lettuce- 3 heads/week, April-December (cold-tolerant)= 108 heads of lettuce 
Potatoes- 6 potatoes/week June-April (storage)=240 potatoes 
Carrots- 10 carrots/week, May-March (storage)= 400 carrots 
Tomatoes- 10 large/week July-October= 160 tomatoes 
Onions- 3 onions/week June-April (storage)= 120 onions 
Cucumbers- 1 cuke/week August-October= 48 cukes 
Cauliflower- 1 head/2 weeks August-November= 8 cauliflower heads 
Garlic- 1 head/week May-May= 52 heads of garlic 
Watermelon- 2 watermelon/week July-September= 24 watermelons

Oh good. Now that I've spelled it all out, it sounds insane! Well.. it's not all going to be grown at the same time.. (I'm telling myself this) the carrots and lettuce and even onions could be planted twice. The potatoes could be planted in two locations and planting dates could be staggered for a longer lasting supply. The tomatoes... holy crap! The cukes... the cauliflower... the garlic... the watermelon.....

It's gonna be a challenge, but so much fun!


  1. Ahhh!! Having a garden sounds so complex :/ I just want to grow some plants on my balcony this summer and even that has me pretty confused. I guess it sounds like gardening is a "do it first, learn later" kind of thing...that's how learning to cook was for me!

  2. It's definitely complex- but it's pretty fun too! It's pretty easy to garden for fun and start small, I think- I just have trouble starting small :P

    Sounds like you're really learning a lot of cooking skills- I've been checking out your blog for tips! :)